Photography by Greg Hayward Plans to build a Muslim community centre close to Ground Zero in New York have been causing controversy in America. The project, known as Park51 Muslim Cultural Center, is the creation of the Cordoba Initiative, an organisation which aims “to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations within the next decade, steering the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect”.
The centre which would stand only several hundred feet away from where the World Trade Centre stood before the events of 11 September 2001 has raised many ethical questions and has been referred to by critics as the “Ground Zero Mosque”. Some relatives of the 9/11 victims are against the building of the mosque saying it’s ‘offensive’ and ‘tasteless’ to build a mosque so close to the site where Islamist extremists killed thousands.
Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wrote that “to build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks.”
She called it an “an intolerable mistake on hallowed ground”.
Debra Burlingame co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, whose brother died in the attack said “This is a place which is 600 feet from where almost 3,000 people were torn to pieces by Islamic extremists.”
She continued “I think that it is incredibly insensitive and audacious really for them to build a mosque, not only on that site, but to do it specifically so that they could be in proximity to where that atrocity happened.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who endorsed the project said:
“The government should never, never be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray. We want to make sure that everybody from around the world feels comfortable coming here, living here, and praying the way they want to pray.”
Newly appointed Park51 Senior Advisor, Imam Abdallah Adhami said, “This is an extraordinary opportunity to be a key advisor on a project going forward that has enormous creative and healing potential for the collective good in New York City and in our nation.
The 13 story glass and steel structure will replace a 1850s Italianate-style building previously used as Burlington Coat Factory before it was damaged in the September 11, 2001 attacks. The center will include a 500-seat auditorium, a prayer space for the Muslim community to accommodate up to 2000 people, a performing arts center, a theatre, a fitness center and classrooms with a swimming pool and a basketball court, a childcare area, a bookstore, a culinary school, a food court, an art studio and a memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks.